Recognized as a climate leader, Toronto has set an example for cities worldwide, as well as across Ontario and Canada. In 2021, I was excited to see the City pass a new Net Zero Strategy and ambitiously advance its net-zero target to 2040, instead of 2050.
However, we know the need to address rising climate emissions is as urgent as ever. It’s important that the City focus on implementation and budgetary action to ensure continued progress. The City has committed significant funding towards climate initiatives already, but we have highlighted three areas that require further support and attention. Failing to include these three items would slow Toronto’s progress towards its net-zero targets and miss opportunities to address other public priorities like improved health and resilience. Below are TAF’s three key asks for this year’s City of Toronto Budget:
1) Climate lens policy
We know the City is working on developing a climate lens policy, which would direct relevant City Divisions to take carbon impacts into consideration when making decisions. The climate lens is intended to enable better decision making so that City staff have the necessary tools to consider the carbon emissions impact of each project and policy the City undertakes. Whether this is reviewing the upgrading or replacement of natural gas pipelines or reviewing the full life cycle assessment of projects like the rehabilitation of the Gardiner Expressway, it is critically important that the climate lens provide a full and accurate account of how emissions will increase or decrease because of these types of projects. It is vitally important that a climate lens be applied to all City decisions in the coming decades.
2) Allocate appropriate funding to transition to fully electric bus fleet
Did you know Toronto leads North America for its deployment of electric buses? The City is a recognized leader in this space. And yet, the City’s 10-year capital plan includes significant funding for replacing Toronto’s aging diesel buses with electric buses – a total of $293 million, to be exact. But at the same time, the plan also includes $314 million to purchase more diesel buses. This just doesn’t add up. Why would you spend more money to purchase new diesel buses than we are on replacement electric buses?
Diesel buses are a major contributor to traffic related air pollution, which “accounts for about 280 deaths and 1,090 hospitalizations in the City each year.” And the transportation sector is responsible for 30% of carbon emissions in Toronto. That means transitioning Toronto’s bus fleet from diesel to electric will have a significant impact on the City’s air quality, resulting in healthier air for residents to breathe, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We encourage the City to adjust these funding amounts and ensure the necessary funding is available to avoid any delays in the replacement of the City’s bus fleets with electric buses.
3) Funding for Toronto Green Standard
In July 2021, Council approved version four of the Toronto Green Standard (TGS v4). Between July and December, Council directed City staff to undertake various initiatives related to TGS v4, such as reporting on including embodied carbon metrics, strengthening waste diversion requirements, and including 100% EV-ready requirements.
These are important priorities for carbon reduction and should be implemented as soon as possible. The problem is, to undertake them while managing compliance with TGS v4, City Planning requires more staff and resources. Toronto is a leader in paving the way for other municipalities in Ontario to develop their own green standards, but to continue this leadership, the City must ensure appropriate funds are allocated to the Planning Department to enable this critical climate work.
I look forward to watching Toronto City Council vote on the proposed 2022 Budget this Thursday. TAF urges the City to take our recommendations into consideration to continue its role as an international climate leader.